Who’s Afraid of Sarah Raymundo?*

Contrary to popular perception that UP is a free zone, a liberated space, what Sarah’s case reveals is that UP is a site of fierce ideological struggle, where those who advocate radical convictions are isolated and marginalized, even terminated, for unjust reasons.

First Published in the Philippine Collegian

They say that this university is a free zone, a liberated space that promotes academic freedom, political tolerance, and liberal education, among other grand claims. Here in UP, students and teachers have nothing to fear – radical positions are welcome, democratic rights are respected, political persecution is a thing of the past.

But when the case of sociology professor Sarah Raymundo came to fore amidst centennial festivities in the past months, the old myth surrounding the institution quickly unraveled.

In November, Sarah was told by the sociology department chair herself that the tenured professors from the same department have decided not to recommend her tenure. She was then instructed not to meet her classes until further notice. When Sarah asked for reasons behind such instructions, she was told that these cannot be disclosed. The last that was heard from the department chair, in a letter addressed to the dean of the College, is that the department is waiting for recommendations from the UP legal office, which means, perhaps, that a formal administrative case against Sarah is now in the works. Now, almost three months later, there is still no written explanation from those concerned, despite Sarah’s formal inquiries.

What, then, is her crime? Sarah has satisfied the requirements for tenure: she holds a masters degree in sociology and can boast about being published in a number of academic publications. Still, the powers-that-be have refused to grant what is due to her, like members of a secret society who have sworn not to give her the key that unlocks the mystery.

The shroud of mystery surrounding Sarah’s case is lifted upon further reading. Reason suggests that the only crime she is guilty of is that of putting theory into practice – she is being singled-out because of her progressive leanings and political affiliations, as she continues to serve as secretary general of the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy and is an active member of the All UP Academic Employees Union and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

That such undemocratic actions were carried out by a department hosted by no less than the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy is all the more alarming. Not too long ago, the chair of the same department pointed an accusing finger at Sarah for her alleged involvement in the disappearance of a former student-activist, an accusation that had absolutely no basis and was later disproved. Today, it appears that this issue is being resurrected by those who are working overtime to kick Sarah out of the academe – those who seem to be deathly afraid of the activist-professor whose advocacies and interests are different from their own political positions.

Because of her convictions, Sarah has become the easy target of the beast that hides behind the university’s liberal posturing; narrow-minded conservatism has reared its ugly head in the midst of proclamations of one hundred years of service and excellence. Contrary to popular perception, what Sarah’s case reveals is that UP is a site of fierce ideological struggle, where those who advocate radical convictions are isolated and marginalized, even terminated, for unjust reasons.

Yet, in such repressive conditions, Sarah remains unflinching and steadfast. Despite the verbal order earlier imposed, Sarah continues to attend to her classes, and her students can attest that she is an excellent teacher who raises issues that invoke critical thinking and political inquiry. She remains active in her political organizations and continues to engage in various activities, from fora to mass demonstrations.

So who is afraid of Sarah Raymundo? Certainly not her current and former students, her colleagues in political organizations, or her fellow intellectuals, among others, who immediately expressed indignation and support upon learning about the issue.

At this point, the question posed above is easy enough to answer. Posted by Bulatlat.com

*This article was published in the Jan. 15, 2009 issue of The Philippine Collegian.

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